Heidi Verheul's blog

Dec. 5-9: Features of Creatures

Creatures have features. These specific adaptations make them what they are and not something else.  A living critter may have feathers, fur, flippers, feet, or fins (and those are just the ones that I can think of that start with the letter “f”). Scientists like to classify and name living things based on the features that living things have.

A great game to get children up and running about, while at the same time using their imaginations to think of the characteristics of different critters is “Ranger Ranger”. To get the group thinking about features before getting into the game, I’ll lead a short discussion about what makes a reptile different from a mammal or a bird from a tree.

Ranger, Ranger Running Game

When you get out to the grounds start off by making a rectangular field. Have all the children line up on one end of the rectangle facing the opposite end.... Read more »

Nov 28 – Dec 2: Play as Professional Development

I love working with children. I thoroughly enjoy their enthusiasm and their tireless energy. I also love awakening the inner child in grownups as well. For the past few years, I have had the pleasure to coordinate and deliver workshops to preservice (student) teachers at universities. This year, my volunteer, Emily, and I were invited to deliver a three hour workshop with the Head Instructors of the EXCEL Child Care Program.

My goal when designing and delivering these sorts of professional development programs is to inspire educators, child care professionals, and others interested to include some environmental education in their own practice as a way of getting out of the school box and using some of these experiences to drive learnings and have some fun.... Read more »

Nov. 21-25: Feeding Feathered Friends

Some urban school grounds are a challenge for me to plan our activities. This week I visited one group of children for an entire week with funding from the NS Department of Health and Wellness. Being an urban school, it has very heavy traffic on three sides of the school grounds, which are mostly paved over with asphalt, and also has a play structure and a basketball court. With the exception of a few trees and a small garden in back, it didn't provide me with a whole lot to work with.

I brought an assortment of games, activities, and some specimens like pelts and skulls to share with the children, but when we would go outside, it was a challenge to be heard over noise of the rush hour traffic and non-human signs of life were not apparent.

We decided to make some simple birdfeeders and hang them in the sparse trees in hopes of attracting some birds to our playground.... Read more »

Nov. 15 -18: Scratch and Sniff

Smells leave a lasting impression on our psyche because the part of our brain that deals with smell is close to our memory and emotional centres.  Responses to smell can be instant and powerful. That is one of the reasons why I like to use the sense of smell when I work with children.

This week, there was an especially large patch of wintergreen on the school grounds, so at the end of each day I had the children close their eyes as they sat in a row on a fallen tree. As they sat there, I came along with some wintergreen that I had the stem scraped with my fingernail to release the oils that produce the smell.  One by one, I put the wintergreen under their noses and while some of the children peeked open their eyes to see, many of them cracked a big smile after breathing in the sweet scent, a telltale sign of their impression of our little wooded area.

A Scent Scavenger Hunt... Read more »

Nov. 7-10: Secret Salamander Spot

This year Wild Child has been making single visits to groups of children enrolled with the EXCEL Child Care Program and depending upon the number of children enrolled, I may only get to see the school grounds once, twice, or if I am lucky a few times.

When I visit a school ground just once, it is a challenge for me to plan the activities because there may or may not be suitable spaces to do specific things. Most of the schools that I have visited have a wooded area on the property or directly adjacent to the school grounds and the staff has been very helpful in filling me in on what is available for us to use during my visits.

Secretive Salamanders

What I don’t always recognize is the knowledge that the children have of their own grounds and their eagerness to share this with me.... Read more »


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